Cult classic it may be, but there’s no denying Postcards from the Edge is going through a recent publication resurgence because the author, actress and Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher passed away last year. Which is a shame, because this novel is razor sharp, funny and completely different to most novels sat on your shelves right now.
Primarily following the story of actress Suzanne Vale, Postcards from the Edge shatters that glamorous Hollywood myth by taking readers inside the reality. Which, in Suzanne’s case, involves stomach pumping, rehab, drugs, relationships, anxiety, insecurities and oh-so-much wit and self-deprecation.
Beginning with Suzanne in rehab as she records the day-to-day goings on and puts down her musings into quick, short bursts of narrative, Postcards ultimately follows the formerly acclaimed actress through the early days of her recovery, going from the clinic, to her first years out of the clinic, and from trying to find work again in Hollywood to all the relationships she forges and loses along the way.
“She wanted so to be tranquil, to be someone who took walks in the late-afternoon sun, listening to the birds and crickets and feeling the whole world breathe. Instead, she lived in her head like a madwoman locked in a tower, hearing the wind howling through her hair and waiting for someone to come and rescue her from feeling things so deeply that her bones burned.”
With the early parts of this novel reflecting an incident in Carrie Fisher’s own life in 1985, Postcards is considered a semi-autobiographical roman à clef, which lends the whole thing a weight of levity and gives it an honest voice it’s difficult to otherwise achieve in fiction. And, while saying Suzanne’s experiences in the novel are a true reflection of Fisher’s own may be a little too simplistic, in the character of Suzanne, Fisher almost certainly shares her experiences of a crazy little town called Hollywood – and Suzanne is made personable in large part due to the fact Carrie put so much of herself into her.
Despite the blurb selling this as a meet-cute and a meeting of personalities between two rehab patients (one of whom is good-looking “in a Heathcliffish sort of way”), Suzanne’s interactions with ambitious, self-destructive fellow patient Alex are actually very minimal, and has little influence over anything that happens. Rather, this is a story of recovery, and of reclaiming yourself when life sweeps you away.
Through an intriguing mix of mundane reflections and fiercely intelligent insights – Suzanne may be going through the motions, but her brain is as quick-witted as ever – this novel sits firmly in the mind of a troubled individual. It’s not always easy going, and the style jumps from journalistic, to stream-of-consciousness-like duologues, to familiar third person narrative without pauses as Suzanne’s recovery continues, and it can be a slog to get through. But just when you’re about to give up, Fisher delivers a gem of a sentence or an idea, and you’re easily caught back up in Suzanne’s over-analytical head once again.
Postcards from the Edge isn’t exactly conventional – it’s heartbreakingly funny, hilariously sad and, actually, not a lot happens in it as we catch up with Suzanne at different moments of her post-recovery life. But it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless, and it’s written with such wit and precision that your copy will come out the other end covered in highlight and post-it notes as Fisher’s words and observations continue to resonate.